1 Corinthians 4:15 — Not Many Fathers and Mothers

MaryAnn Ward - Spiritual Fathers and Mothers

Are spiritual fathers and mothers found only within the pages of history books? I don’t think so, but they are few and far between. What does spiritual parenting look like today?

Never has the opportunity to teach and learn become so accessible. Untold numbers of teachers upload millions of videos, podcasts, and blogs to the internet daily. Thousands of these even show us how to be great fathers and mothers. If ever Paul’s words of 1 Corinthians 4:15 were true, perhaps we find their fulfillment today.

For even if you were to have ten thousand teachers [to guide you] in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers [who led you to Christ and assumed responsibility for you], for I became your father in Christ Jesus through the good news [of salvation].
1 Corinthians 4:15

Paul trained under the greatest teachers of the first century. Yet, one touch from Jesus removed him from the accelerated path of knowledge and the upper religious elite, setting him toward a better way — the way of The Father.

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The Father

Jesus prime focus was to demonstrate the Father’s heart to those who would listen and pay attention. We instinctively know that fathers and mothers form the foundation to not just solid homes but faith communities as well.

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
John 14:8-9

Jesus lived with His spiritual children for three years. These disciples saw how He “did” life, how He interacted with difficult people, and how He responded under pressure. He modeled a value system that contradicted the teaching of others. But more than anything, He demonstrated an inseparable unity with The Father — a unity He prayed we too would experience.

“…Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
John 17:21

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Fathers and Mothers

Perhaps no other word evokes more personal shame than the word “mother.” Like many other mothers and fathers, I have carried the weight of my shortcomings. Yet a couple years ago, the Lord whispered the word “matriarch” over me. He bypassed my failures as “mother,” giving me a variant without negative connotations. This affirmation sent me on a quest to discover afresh the context of mothering and fathering.

Fathers and mothers “do life” with their children. They submit to a high level of vulnerability and transparency, teaching through personal successes and failures. Teachers instruct through knowledge and information, but fathers and mothers model through intimate relationship. They pass the baton of faith to successive generations, bringing exponential increase to their efforts.

The early church didn’t just worship together. They worked together, ate together, traveled together, and served the community together. What a stark contrast to how most of us live.

God creates these divine connections, bringing strategic people into our lives at opportune times.

  • Have spiritual fathers and mothers mentored you through intimate relationship?
  • How did they walk their role out?
  • What valuable lessons did you learn?
  • Are there aspects of their godly example that you imitate?
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The Fruit of Fathers and Mothers

No other human, apart from Jesus, influenced generations of churches as much as Paul. Why? Because of his excellent teaching and debating style? No! Rather, his greatest measure of influence came by “fathering” people in the churches he established. Through intimate relationship, he modeled a faith lifestyle, language, and value system.

The generational influence of godly fathers and mothers cannot be denied. I see God again calling forth and raising up a new stream of spiritual mothers and fathers. Some of them, still in their youth, are successfully fostering others in the faith. Just as Jesus and Paul modeled the heart of our Heavenly Father, these dedicated disciples are answering God’s call and filling the gap.

God promises,

I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams.”
Isaiah 44:3-4

May there be no fatherless or motherless orphans among us. May this be a time when every Christian experiences life with a spiritual father and mother, growing strong in a solid faith-family.

MaryAnn Ward, Blog, Image, Generations

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See Clearly — A Shadow or the Real Thing

I see clearly from my upper-story window both shadows and the objects projecting the shadows. Both their dimensions and shapes differ. The shadow often stands out sharper and more distinctly that the real thing. With the changing angle of the sun, the shadows gradually reshape into forms much different from the original appearance.

God reminds us,

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
1 Corinthians 13:12

He alerts us of our limited viewpoints. We look at people and the shadows of their lives from a single angle, but there are multiple points of view hidden from us.

Optometrists prescribe prescription lens to correct physical vision. But how do we secure a prescription for our hearts, to enlighten us to look deeper and wider?

God’s View

We need — desperately need — to see things from God’s perspective. As the Light, He illuminates everything inside and out.

He also reveals Himself in multiple ways. Hebrews 4:13 says,

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

This thought becomes both frightening and comforting to those who experience His love and grace. We most accurately gain God’s view by knowing Him. We know Him most accurately through His Word. The Bible gives us the clearest image of God’s perspective regarding all things. The more we read and understand His Word, the more we will see clearly and understand His thoughts and ways.

God’s Heart

No one fully knows their own heart or motivation, let alone the heart and motives of others. Yet, how quickly we judge each other from limited viewpoints.

Even when we think we operate with pure motives, the curse of sin taints our words and actions. Just as often, the reverse holds true. We may say or do something with obviously impure motives, yet along the way God shifts our hearts to align with His.

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
Jeremiah 17:9

Only when our hearts become transformed more like His heart will be see clearly both ourselves and others. The Holy Spirit, our Comforter, comes gently and firmly nudging us closer and closer to the heart of Father God.

See Clearly

We so easily become deceived while living in the shadow lands of earth. Through consistent prayer asking God to help us see clearly, God opens the path of improved perspective.

As children, we may have enjoyed playing shadow creatures with flashlights beaming against dark walls. But as adults mature in the Lord, we desire more and more to see clearly — first ourselves and then others.

“For now [in this time of imperfection] we see in a mirror dimly [a blurred reflection, a riddle, an enigma], but then [when the time of perfection comes we will see reality] face to face. Now I know in part [just in fragments], but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known [by God].”
1 Corinthians 13:12 AMP

As we realize our limited view, we more quickly restrain critical judgments and offensive rhetoric. Like the disciples of old, we, too, possess warped perspectives, blurred vision, and dimmed hearts.

Let Us Pray

The greatest shifts occur as we acknowledge our shortcomings and pray. Let us earnestly and consistently ask God to remove the enigmas of our flesh and the many fragmented perceptions we hold. May we see beyond the shadows people cast to God’s perspective.

Oh Father, we groan under the weight of our insufficiency. The things we think we see and know clearly, we neither know nor see. In one sense, we accept our limitations. While in another, we earnestly seek You to change us and grant us clearer vision. If ever there was a time or season when clarity of thought and motive is necessary, now is that time! May we not be like blind beggars groping in the darkness of deception. Lord Jesus, open our eyes to see as You see. Open our ears to hear Your voice. Open our hearts to respond with full obedience and alignment to Your ways. Draw us near to Your heart, that we might reflect You more and more. Thank You, Holy Spirit, for Your conviction and comfort. We are grateful, Lord Jesus, for Your incredible grace and truth that helps us to see clearly.

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Hold on to the Old While Embracing the New

Through a mini-parable, Jesus exhorts everyone willing to hear to hold on to the old while embracing the new. Only one verse in length, we could easily miss both the parable and its meaning. Confident that everyone would clearly understand, He offered no further explanation.

Although I try hard to avoid waste, invariably I discover an outdated, expired, or overdue food item pushed to the back corner of a cupboard or the refrigerator. Ugh! Because most food products carry labels informing us when something is no longer safe for consumption, I know when the old must go!

In contrast, as a watercolor painter, the beginning layers of paint affect every new layer that will be placed on them. The old never grows old but forms a strategic foundation for the new. The point Jesus makes in His parable resembles watercolor far more that my refrigerator.

“He said to them, ‘Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”
Matthew 13:52

The Old

What happens when an old teacher of the Law becomes a new disciple of Jesus Christ? Must he then throw out every “old” concept as moldy, outdated, and expired?

Jesus answers, “No!”

The old teacher holds a tremendous advantage. As he pays attention to the Old while embracing the New, he discovers otherwise hidden resources — a storeroom overflowing with both New and Old treasures.

If we read the New Testament with honesty, we uncover a beautiful web of meaning originating from Genesis throughout the pages to end of Revelation. Out of the Old flows treasures far surpassing diamonds or gold.

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”
Romans 15:4

“Everything that was written,” every word within the Word, precious, anointed, life-giving and powerful! Every word instructing, teaching, encouraging, and hope-filled! Oh, that we would learn to hold on to the Old while embracing the New.

The New

In another passage from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus declares,

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
Matthew 5:17

Jesus warns listeners, then and now, to not “set aside” the Old. In the same breath, He makes a surprising promise for those who both hold on to the Old while embracing the New.

” … but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 5:19

As evangelical Christians, we easily stumble blindly past Jesus’ words, failing to give them the respect and honor they deserve. We rightly enjoy freedom, knowing Jesus paid our sin-debt in full. No further sacrifice is needed!

Though ultimate sacrifice met every requirement of the Law, Jesus did not erase it.

Immediately after these words, Jesus shocked His listeners by reinforcing the Law to incomprehensible levels. Don’t commit murder now meant not even calling someone a fool! Don’t commit adultery now included not even looking at another person lustfully. He challenged everyone to not only love their neighbors, but to also love their enemies.

Old and New

Like a true watercolor artist, Jesus picks up the dual brushes of the Old and New Covenant — filled and exposed fully for us all. The rich, heavenly hues of depth, color, and dimension interwoven with precision. Both taking form in the Triunity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The more one studies the Old, the more beautiful the New becomes. The more one comprehends the heart of God in the Old, the more we are humbled by the expression of that heart in the New. Together, as teachers of the Law and disciples of the Kingdom of Heaven, we draw from the storehouse treasures available to us. In holding to the Old and embracing the New, a well-spring of wisdom unfolds.

“He said to them, ‘Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”
Matthew 13:52

My Prayer

Oh, Holy Father, grant us tender hearts and willing minds to embrace both the Old and New of Your grace and goodness. There is no expiration date! The Old never grows old. The New never loses its luster. Both Old and New remain eternally true. May we read the Bible from a panoramic view — Genesis to Revelation. Reveal to us the depths of what we hold in our hands and hide in our hearts. Give us grace to see You in every word. May we see the beauty and artistry embedded within each line, woven like no other love story to us, Your beloved sons and daughters. May Your Word become fresh — both the Old and the New. The colours blending into the imagine of immaculate perfection that You designed. Help us to be brought low in the discovery, as we hold on to the Old while embracing the New.
Worthy, O God, are You!
Amen.

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Be Filled — Fill My Fuel Tank, Please!

Maybe I’m lazy, but I like pulling into a full-service station. They cheerfully fill my fuel tank, check the oil, and wash my windows. It feels a bit luxurious at the best of times, but even more so when the temperature dips low and wind blows hard.

I never let the fuel gauge reach the critical red zone, edging toward empty. Only once, in all the years of driving, did I ignore when the warning light flashed, signaling the urgent need to refuel. I remember how relieved I was to safely make it to the next fuel stop.

I’d far rather experience that “full” feeling over the “empty” one. The joy of our home full of family and friends, the comfort of a full stomach after a hearty meal, or a life full of peace and joy, all symbolize the rich blessing of God.

Yet, I often push myself physically, emotionally, and even spiritually into the red danger zone. Just like with my car, I then have a limited capacity to proceed much farther before my “engine” slows to sputtering stop. And just like with my car, I need to take serious action to refuel and refill.

Filled with God

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
Ephesians 3:16-19

I don’t expect to eat a single meal and expect my body to survive long. Yet, as Christians we might be tempted to take one taste of God and say, “That’s enough for me!”

Later, in the same letter Paul instructed the Ephesian Christians,

“Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Ephesians 5:18

The Greek word for “be filled” means to continuously be filled. It’s an ongoing action, rather than a one-time fix. If I want to go the full distance, I need to slow down enough for the Holy Spirit to fill my internal fuel tank. In Scripture, to be filled means “to be made full, to occupy to full capacity, to satiate or satisfy, and to have plenty.

Filling my fuel tank with the wrong liquid will destroy my car’s engine. I, too, must also be sure to refill with the right commodity — the Holy Spirit.

Once, Jesus’ future disciples fished all night without catching a single fish. Jesus came, telling them to throw their nets over the other side of the boat? Immediately, fish rushed into their nets, filling them to overflowing capacity. Their once sturdy nets began to break. Now, that’s God’s definition of being filled!

God is Full

An empty cupboard lacks the contents to fill my hungry stomach. An empty service station can’t provide me with the fuel I need for my vehicle. In contrast, we come to a God who exemplifies the meaning of full!

The LORD passed in front of Moses, calling out, “Yahweh! The LORD! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.
Exodus 34:6 NLT

Out of His fullness, He stands ever ready to fill those who come to Him.

“He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!”
Psalm 103:5 NLT

Whatever our lack, wherever our emptiness, whatever our need, our loving, compassionate, and faithful God desires to fill us to maximum capacity — unable to contain one ounce more of His blessing. Renewed in Him, we rise like eagles!

Fill My Fuel Tank

After pulling into a service station, I could turn off my engine, waiting for hours for the fuel gauge to move upward. I must have an expectation and a willingness to receive the fuel I need after asking for it. I always need to clearly ask for the type and amount of fuel I desire. However, I sometimes come to God, driving up in prayer, parking for a few moments, hours, or even days, and leaving just as empty as I came.

God has been challenging me lately about my low level of expectation. I approach God with a high level of expectation that He will meet the needs of others. Yet at other times, I possess a much lower level of expectation that He will do the same for me.

We must come with an expectation of receiving what we ask for. The good news is that we don’t need to empty our wallets or fix a long list of faults to come to Him. Jesus already paid a huge price to give us ready access to the Father.

Here is a reminder of a few nuggets of what God has available:

  • Joy, peace, and hope

“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Romans 15:13 NLT

  • Love

“And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”
Romans 5:5 NLT

  • Life

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
John 10:10

Filled to Overflowing

Living “full” prepares us for every situation ahead. Jesus began and lived His ministry full of the Holy Spirit. He often withdrew for concentrated times of prayer and communion with the Father, continually being filled and refilled.

“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness …”
Luke 4:1

Jesus was every bit human. He experienced every human temptation and faced every human weakness. Yet even robed in full humanity, He lived victoriously. We cannot expect to live triumphantly while running on empty!

Again, we hear Paul instruct both the Ephesian church and us,

“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”
Ephesians 6:11

God has given us everything we need. It is up to us to apply it. As we learn how to regularly refuel in the Holy Spirit, we will experience everything God has for us. Do you want to be full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone (Colossians 4:5-6)?” Would you like to experience “full restoration” with God and others to “encourage one another, being of one mind, living in peace. And knowing the God of love and peace will be with you (2 Corinthians 13:11).”

God has made it available for you! He offers it to me! May the desire of our hearts be, “Lord, through the Holy Spirit, fill my fuel tank — today, tomorrow, and always!”

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Come Now! The Parable of the Great Banquet

Have you ever received an invitation to “Come Now!” to a function? In many cultures, it is rude to refuse such an invite. Perhaps, you were already committed to other plans, were exhausted from work, or it was poor timing for you. There could be many reasons to decline an impromptu engagement.

We might request a rain check from the host or hostess, hoping to meet at a later date when it is more convenient. Sometimes, the delay may be justified. Other times, we create excuses for having other priorities — even misplaced priorities. Although a similar opportunity may come again, we must carefully consider each offer.

Jesus told a parable, a simple story revealing spiritual truth, about a great banquet. In the parable, the host offered no rain checks. “Come now!” he announced to his chosen guests.

Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’”
Luke 14:17

Excuses

Without even considering the gravity of their response, they “all alike began to make excuses.

What? Everyone invited declined? Sadly, their excuses sounded strangely familiar to those we might use.

“But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’
Luke 14:18-20

Politely, they all requested a rain check on the dinner engagement. Preoccupied with newly purchased property, the potential of owning his own land flooded the thoughts of the first guest. The second, an obviously wealthy man to buy five yoke of oxen, felt secure in his possessions and wealth. He wanted to try out his latest and greatest investment. Besides, he could prepare a banquet for himself whenever he wanted. The third could think of nothing but the pleasure of being with his lovely bride.

Most of us can relate to at least one of these fine gentlemen. Just like them, things, money, and people occupy much of our time, energy, and focus too. We easily justify how much time and effort we place in these areas of our lives.

The Master

The host planned for months. He prepared for weeks. All his servants worked diligently to present the choicest delicacies for the master’s guests. Elaborate decorations adorned the great banquet hall. Everything was ready.

The master of the banquet saw through the feeble excuses of his chosen guests. At great expense, he had prepared his best, freely and liberally offering it to others without any expectations in return. Their refusal would not stop the banquet.

Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’”
Luke 14:21

The servants obeyed. Up and down the city streets the servants ran, beckoning the outcasts and neglected to come now to the great banquet.

Still Room

The wealthy elite who rejected the master’s invitation went about their personal pursuits, enjoying their luxuries and pleasures. The most unlikely of guests flocked into the great banquet hall. They sat around tables overflowing with delicacies. Their eyes bulged in disbelief and bellies rumbled with hunger as they gazed upon the abundance of provision. But there was still room for more.

 “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’  “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.”
Luke 14:22-23

Can you hear the heart of the master? Can you feel his generosity? His compassion? The intent of his purpose? “My house will be full!”

The servants ran with haste into the countryside, beckoning everyone they saw to come now. The master desired every seat to be full. He had prepared for maximum capacity.

No Rain Checks

Jesus spoke not just to the listeners of His day. He speaks just as clearly to us — whoever and wherever we might be. The invitation of the Father, the Master of the house, reaches to you and me. It extends to our family, neighbours, and friends. Everything has been made ready.

The banquet points directly to the future marriage supper of the Lamb, Jesus Christ (Rev 19:9). It cost Him everything. It costs us nothing to accept His invitation. He waits for our, “Yes!”

One way or another, the banquet will be filled. Those who decline will miss out. Those who are ready will feast with Him. For some who delay, their place will be given to others.

There will be no rain checks — no opportunity for a change of heart once the seats are full. The Master commands His servants with an urgency, “Compel them to come in!” Then, He gives this warning,

“I say to you all, no one who receives an invitation to feast with me and makes excuses will ever enjoy my banquet.”
Luke 14:24

No More Excuses

How many excuses have we spoken or heard from others. Either verbally or through our actions, we tell God, “Later! When it is more convenient, I will follow You. When business isn’t going so well, I’ll come to You. If my relationships fall apart, then I’ll call on You.”

God’s invitation is to “Come now!” Jesus warned that there will be no room for those who refuse. And there will be no grounds for excuses then.

I weep as I consider all the Master has done for us. I also weep as I consider the consequences of those who decline His invitation.

The parable tells a true story — one lived out daily and being fulfilled throughout eternity. May the parable inspire each of us as God’s servants through the streets of our cities and down the roadways of our countryside, inviting others to come to the Master. May we each sense the Holy Spirit compelling us to come now.

Lord, like the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame, we accept Your gracious invitation. We come without excuse to sit at Your table. We thank You for the great preparation You have made for us. With humble hearts, we say, “Yes!” to You. And with urgency, we invite others to join us. As unworthy beggars, we feast of Your goodness and mercy. Thank You, Lord.

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Beauty of Boundaries: Fences of Protection

As a teenager, I failed to see the beauty of boundaries, repeatedly pushing against any restriction my parents or teachers established. I bear the scars to prove it!

Every outstanding leader honors and recognizes the indisputable importance of parameters on their leadership and with those they lead. Loving parents establish appropriate lines of protection around their children. These fences — sometimes visible, often invisible — keep what is harmful at bay while provided the greatest liberty.

Jesus trained world-changing leaders to follow behind Him. We witness His boundary-establishing techniques at the beginning of their ministry experiences.

Authority

“Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.”
Matthew 10:1

I may have been born in the wrong generation, on the wrong continent, of the wrong gender to take part in the exploits of this group, but my heart cries, “My too!” I long to see a day when hospital wards completely empty, with every disease and sickness brought down. I’m not alone in praying for God to remove the deceptive and deadly claws of the enemy from those we deeply love and care.

“Yes, Lord! Grant us the same authority!”

The Greek word exesti, translated here as authority, means “privilege, force, capacity, competency, freedom, mastery, or delegated influence.” We consider authority to mean the power to give orders, make decisions, or enforce obedience in others. Biblical authority contains a broader meaning within the beauty of boundaries — boundaries, Jesus clearly articulated.

Do Not Go

“These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: ‘Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans.”
Matthew 10:5

Do you see it? Immediately, Jesus set the parameter of their movement. Jesus never conferred authority upon His disciples as a blank cheque to be executed wherever or however they desired.

Power and authority, like intoxicating wine, changes people. Usually to their detriment! But with proper boundaries, that same power and authority becomes mighty in the hands of ordinary men and women.

Multitudes in need awaited the disciples throughout the vast territory before them. The magnitude of the mission, without the beauty of boundaries Jesus established, might otherwise have overwhelmed them. If they or we over-extend ourselves, the immensity of the task incapacitates us, rendering us ineffective.

Jesus scaled back their focus to one people group in one specific area. Within that parameter, they possessed the authority of Christ to function liberally, bringing healing and freedom to those they encountered.

Go

When they clearly understood the “Don’t go!” Jesus then released them to “Go!”

Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.”
Matthew 10:6

Galilee embodied as much multiculturalism as any nation today. God loves each one completely and uniquely.

As a former farmer/rancher, I understand only a fragment of the heart of the Good Shepherd here. If I noticed an animal from a neighbor’s herd in need, I quickly contacted the neighbor and offered help. But if one of my own animals fell into danger, became ill, or went missing, I immediately amped all efforts. The care and concern for my herd far exceeded that for my neighbor’s.

Jesus, the Great Shepherd, desired to minister first to His sheep, “the lost sheep of Israel.” Lost sheep encounter many deadly dangers. Time is of the essence!

As You Go

Jesus gave not only a “do not go” and a “go” instruction, but He also added important details to an “as you do” directive.

“As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.”
Matthew 10:7-8

First, He called them to present the message and purpose of their authority clearly! God desires that everything we say and do points others to the “kingdom of heaven.” Jesus gave the disciples authority to point the lost sheep homeward to the waiting arms of the loving Father.

Second, supernatural signs and wonders emphasized and validated the message. God had been calling His sheep home for decades. They had grown deaf to His voice. Jesus knew meeting human need through miracles would have dramatic effect, awakening them to their deeper spiritual needs.

Beauty of Boundaries

When we stop resisting the fences of protection and provision God establishes, we discover the true beauty of boundaries. It has taken me far too long, but I’m realizing that the more I respect and honor the boundaries God has placed around my life, the more empowered I become to declare His grace.

God’s impartation of authority continues through all generations. God still moves with divine power, healing the sick, casting out demons, and even raising the dead through the submitted hearts and hands of those who intentionally walk within His boundaries.

Freely, they live among us, declaring God’s love and grace. Liberally, they move with supernatural power and authority. Those who hunger and thirst for the things of God are being filled, empowered, and sent out.

Weekly, I hear people witness to God’s healing and deliverance in their lives.

“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places, surely I have a delightful inheritance.”
Psalm 16:6

“Lord, forgive us for resisting your parameters of influence. Turn our hearts in surrender to your ways. Release in and through your faithful followers divine authority and power to speak and move within the beauty of boundaries, as Your instruments of healing, redemption, and deliverance. Let it be!
Amen.”

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Security – Safe in Our Father’s Hands – Never Lost

Sometimes we are given reminders that everything is safe in our Father’s hands. Whatever we commit to our Heavenly Father remains secure — never lost. Security ranks among humanities highest needs.

Although fathers are worthy of honour everyday, we set aside a specific day each year to honour both natural and spiritual fathers for the influence and impact they have. God used this Father’s Day to demonstrate how vast His father heart is for us.

One of my favourite verses declares the security we have in God, our Father.

“I will not in any way fail you
nor give you up nor leave you without support.
I will not. No, I will not.
I will not in any degree leave you helpless
nor forsake nor let you down,
relax My hold on you.
Assuredly not!”
Hebrews 13:5b AMP

Now that is security!

Never Lost

My father passed away 24 years ago. Shortly after, I inherited a necklace he had given my mother untold years before. The delicate gold chain suspended a small heart with the letter “V” nestled at the base. Since my father had accepted Jesus Christ as Saviour a short time before his death, that little necklace became a personal reminder of God’s faithfulness. The “V” symbolized both the power of prayer and the victory we have in Jesus.

Whenever pressures, disappointments or discouragement clouded my life, I would wear that little necklace as a prophetic prayer act, declaring God’s victory over my situation.

In October 2017, I travelled to Calgary, Alberta to receive accreditation for ministry — a significant step in my spiritual calling. But somehow that necklace and a pair of gold earrings went missing in the hotel room.

To no avail, I searched through every pocket and fold trying to find my keepsake. Several times over these last 20 months, I have released my loss to God, but confessed, “Lord, I really want my necklace back.”

On Father’s Day, I had prepared for church adding a pair of butterfly earrings as a final touch. Just before leaving the house, I felt compelled to return to the little jewellery box. When I opened the lid, I noticed a fine gold chain looped across the top of the contents.

“What is this?” I asked as I reached for the chain. Gasping through tears of disbelief, I held again my “lost” keepsake in my hand.

“Oh Daddy,” I said to my Heavenly Father, “You have given back what was lost.”

Kept Safe

Was it lost? Or was it kept safe just out of sight? I have no idea how that little chain appeared in my jewellery box. Was it always there? Concealed, waiting to be revealed? If so, how did I miss seeing it for so long? I may never know the answers.

One thing I know for sure, God used this little token of my earthly father’s love, to touch my heart in a new way. I became immediately aware that nothing is ever lost, but rather kept safe in our Father’s hands.

God who holds all creation by the power of His Word, on Father’s Day, gave His little child back a special gift inherited from her father. Everything is held secure by God. Everything!

God’s greatest gift came in the form of a baby, Jesus Christ. He was given to live holy and blameless, to die for sins He never committed, and to rise again to give life to all who would believe.

“For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life.”
John 3:16

Later when the Jews attempted to discredit and slander Jesus, He said about those who would follow Him,

I give them eternal life,
and they shall never perish;
no one will snatch them out of my hand.
My Father, who has given them to me,
is greater than all;
no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”
John 10:28-29

What security! We are safe in our Father’s hands!

Security

The most precious thing of all is the human soul. Gold or silver holds no value in comparison. Wealth and power are meaningless in contrast.

Yet this little incident reminded me how great and amazing God is. How He sees us — knows us so intimately, caring about even the simplest and most insignificant aspects of our lives. Why did He choose Father’s Day to return this little treasure that holds little value to anyone but me?

In it He revealed something deeper about His character. I have known Him as

Protector and Provider,
my Refuge in the storm,
the One who sustains and delivers,
the Shepherd who leads me,
my Healer and Restorer,
the Strength of my life.

But in a fresh way, I see and know Him as the One who loves personally and cares deeply about every “lost” part of our lives: lost years or opportunities, lost love or relationship, lost hope or purpose, lost dreams or desires.

“I keep my eyes always on the LORD.
With him at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad
and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure.”
Psalm 16:8-9

Safe in our Father’s hands.

Safe

Real safety cannot be found in this twisted, shaking world. Yet, God offers us the assurance that our security is sealed in Him.

“…When you believed,
you were marked in him with a seal,
the promised Holy Spirit.”
Ephesians 1:13

“Marked in him with a seal!” A seal verifies and validates authentic identity. It figuratively means to secure to someone, make sure, and deliver to safety.” 

Safe, secure, and protected! Nothing remains lost with God. All that we entrust to Him is kept infinitely secure.

Psalm 91 begins with a declaration of dwelling, resting and trusting in God. The last half of this psalm is God’s response to such confidence in Him.

“Because he loves me,” says the LORD,
“I will rescue him; I will protect him,
for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honour him.
With long life I will satisfy him and
show him my salvation.”
Psalm 91:14-16

An unusual word for “love” appears here. It presents the idea of “holding close to or hugging tightly in love.”

Holding Close

These promises are for those who “hold close” to God, “hugging” Him tightly in love. His love for us is incomparably more than any holding close or hugging tightly we may offer. Yet, He sees, values and rewards our reach toward Him — reaching even in loss.

The return of my little heart necklace symbolizes many “losses” I continue to pray will some day be restored in my life or the lives of others:

lost health while battling cancer and disease;
lost trust through adultery or betrayal;
sons and daughters lost to addictions;
dreams lost through unforeseen circumstance;
lost innocence or hope.

At the same time, the return of my necklace reminds us that nothing is ever fully lost, but kept safe in our Father’s hands. He waits for the perfect time, the exact day, the premise moment to restore to each of us all that was lost.

But now, we position ourselves,holding closely to Him, hugging tightly in His love” and praying, “God, I want my lost back.”

**********

Prayer – A Personal Invitation None Should Refuse

There can be huge gaps between our knowing and doing when it comes to prayer. I hope we are like Jesus’ disciples honestly asking Him to teach us in this area.

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
Luke 11:1

The disciples were not unfamiliar with praying. After all, these were Jewish boys. They would already have been taught principles and patterns for prayer. Some were originally followers of John who also taught on prayer.

So, what made the prayers of Jesus so different from every other prayer they had heard to this point?

That remains my question, too!

Humble Beginnings

When I first became a Christian, I wasn’t allowed the privilege of a Bible or the liberty to attend a church. Without these two key elements in my life, prayer became my sustaining force. I had no “spiritual” mother or father to pattern from or teach me.

I knew God was real. Not just real from a distance, but real in my life. Instinctively I knew He wanted to be involved and connected to every part.

The Father’s Love

I heard someone say once, “The steadfast love of the Lord is your compass point.” His unfailing love is the “true north” that is the guiding light for all disciplines.

No one loves as deeply as the Heavenly Father!

The Father's Love

“Because of the LORD’s great love
we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself,
“The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.
(Lamentations 3:22-23).

In the Lord’s prayer Jesus is giving us more than a verbal pattern. He is demonstrating that prayer is to be in the context of relationship to God as a loving Father and Friend. (Luke 11:1-13)

Two Ways

Have you ever had a conversation with yourself? I have! Gets boring really fast!

Prayer is simply conversation with the Father. That means there are moments of both listening and speaking when we pray. Prayer has two directions, us to the Father and the Father to us.

Listen Speak

As with most conversations, it is helpful if I listen first and speak second. Listening begins as I mediate on The Word of God. Faith rises as a scripture comes to mind and I sense Him nudge me, “Try this one“.

“For God does speak–now one way, now another – though no one perceives it.”
Job 33:14

I guess I’m not the first one to have trouble with this two-way conversation thing of prayer!

The Holy Spirit

I’m so thankful the Holy Spirit is there to help us in learning process.

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”
Romans 8:26

Many times, we can be uncertain to know just how to pray…

when words don’t come easy or thoughts unravel,
when the heart aches
as you circle a mountain of despair
one more time…
Holy Spirit steps in both for us and with us. We’re not alone.

God Answers Prayer

I know what I have written is only the beginning concepts of prayer – simple grounding principles. Another fundamental to be added is an assurance that God delights to answer.

“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you;
seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”
Luke 11:9

My first prayer for you today is for you to have a new confidence to hear and receive from God. The second is that prayer would become so filled with special prayer moments that your life becomes a continuous flow of listening, talking and receiving from God. Lastly, may prayer become an amazing opening into a new adventure with The One who longs to spend time with you.

Prayer

Today may you hear Jesus say to you, “Come!”

__________

3 Relationships We All Need and The Reasons Why

Relationships

Jesus patterned vibrant examples of relationships fundamental to boosting emotional and spiritual health. There are three relationships we all need and key reasons for each.

We need the relationships of brother/sister, a child, and a father/mother — continually and simultaneously.

Brother/Sister — Shoulder to Shoulder

The sibling relationship is “ friend for life“. These are those who “do life” with you. Teammates who stick by you in the best and the worst of times. They may not always like you, but they love you enough to never give up on you.

Friend - Relationship

Here are shared confidences, often above any other relationship. Maybe that is why I especially love this verse:

“I no longer call you servants,
because a servant does not know his master’s business.
Instead, I have called you friends,
for everything that I learned from my Father
I have made known to you.”
John 15:15

Jesus chose to be known as Friend, walking shoulder to shoulder with those who were doing life with Him. I think that is incredible — beyond my comprehension.

Child — Carry in the Arm

Ever notice how babies disrupt life?

Children are captivating
energetic, enthusiastic
vibrant, sometimes plain crazy
endearing, frustrating
questioning, always changing
needy and dependent.

Baby - Disciple

Children bring out the best and worst in us. We had five boys in just under 9 years. Life was always in flux, sleep lacking, and routine difficult to establish. Never a boring day!

These boys had the uncanny ability to draw the deepest love and affection, attitudes of commitment, self-sacrifice, tenderness and compassion. They also exposed in me every weak and immature area I otherwise wouldn’t have been aware of.

More than anything, they taught me the importance of persistent prayer. With children comes a deep sense of responsibility. They teach us much about the loving heart of Father God.

Love your enemies! Do good to them.
Lend to them without expecting to be repaid.
Then your reward from heaven will be very great,
and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High,
for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.”
Luke 6:35

I’m not saying children are our enemies, however these phrases certainly apply to raising children.   As a natural or spiritual parent there is a lot of doing good and giving without expecting in return. The young at times can be unthankful and even wicked. Reward is in the future; sacrificial giving marks the daily attitude of caring for the young.

We learn this quality of parenting from Father God Himself, as we imitate His heart.

Jesus purposefully chose twelve disciples (children) to walk with him day and night.

Father/Mother – A Shelter

Of all relationships, I have found this the most difficult to cultivate in my life. The relationship of a father/mother in the faith is a mentor.

This is someone who has the authority to speak the deepest in my life

confronting attitudes and issues
exposing hidden agendas or beliefs
sometimes pushing me beyond self-made boundaries
often pulling back the reins of over-enthusiasm
praying for me consistently
loving me deeply.

Just as we need a child young in the faith to help along the way, we also need someone who is over us. We give a mentor both permission and authority of accountability in this relationship.

Here is Jesus’ example:

“…Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself;
he can do only what he sees his Father doing,
because whatever the Father does
the Son also does.”
John 5:19

Mentor - Father - Mother

The young always think they are ready to tackle the world; a mentor knows when they are really ready.

A mentor also is vulnerable enough to pattern life for us through their own personal successes and failures. In strength and wisdom, they position themselves with us in our own personal battles.

This relationship will propel you the farthest, enabling you to fulfill your highest calling.

Relationships

Lord may I consistently
seek out the young to pass the baton of faith to,
a friend to journey life with,
and someone to submit to and follow after.
Thank you, Jesus, for your example
sharing, giving and teaching.